The US’s investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it

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The United States has a history of coming together and innovating its way out of challenges. In the early days of the space race, threatened by Soviet-space supremacy, our scientists and researchers sent the first humans to land on the moon. Faced with the reality of climate change, American innovators have created better solar panels, a new generation of electric cars, and carbon capture technologies. Confronted by a historic pandemic, American companies are on the brink of finalizing a vaccine in record time.

We are a nation of innovators. Unfortunately, today we are underinvesting in one of the greatest innovation technologies of our time, artificial intelligence (AI). AI is an exponential technology that will give the U.S. a continued edge in innovation and allow us to address the next crisis, whatever it may be.

AI has already played a critical role in our fight against COVID-19. It’s helped to identify unique portions of the virus’s DNA code for analysis, it’s allowed researchers to run simulations of travel restrictions and social distancing, it has even enabled grocery stores to better predict supply chain shortages.

And COVID-19 is not the only crisis AI is fighting. This technology has proved indispensable in countering cyber attacks, fighting climate change, and improving energy use and efficiency.

But despite the promise of AI, the United States is underinvesting in this critical technology. The Chinese Communist Party has laid out a plan to outpace the U.S. in development of AI by 2030, and leaders in our tech industry suggest that China is not far behind. Losing the AI race would have significant implications not only for American private industry, but also for our national security.

That’s why, in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I introduced a bipartisan amendment to double our investment in AI. My amendment incorporates the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act into the annual defense bill, increasing our investment in AI by $6.5 billion, more than two-fold. It provides money for research, training, and student scholarships, not only to strengthen our national defense, but to ensure that the United States remains the world’s leader in AI development.

Introduced by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), our National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act recognizes the importance of education and workforce training to compete globally in the field of AI. Most Americans today do not believe that university AI programs are doing enough to prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future. Our bill fixes that by allowing the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide education grants for AI fellowships and traineeships, and to fund the development of AI curriculum at colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. Our legislation makes a historic investment in developing AI talent here at home to ensure the United States has a workforce that will keep us at the cutting edge.

The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act also provides historic funding for AI research and development programs and empowers NSF to create a network of AI research institutions. These developments enable NSF not only to expand AI research but to ensure its developments are widespread and accessible.

Doubling our investment in AI isn’t the only action our nation must take to continue leading in this critical technology, but it’s a vital step forward. And importantly, we have a real shot at securing this pivotal investment by passing this year’s NDAA.

Every year Congress sets priorities and budgets for the Department of Defense and sets policy to reflect a changing national security environment through the NDAA. The international threat posed to U.S. leadership in AI is a growing national security concern, and this year’s NDAA is an opportunity to address the issue.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I know the NDAA has a long history of earning support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Our House version of the NDAA passed out of committee earlier this year in a unanimous vote. And in the Senate, the bill passed with overwhelming support from both parties.

But now that we are inches away from the finish line, some lawmakers would rather play politics than get the NDAA signed into law. That’s unacceptable. It’s an injustice to our service members and it’s a threat to our national security when there are challenges we must address with passage of this year’s defense bill, challenges like our lagging national investment in AI.

As a conferee tasked with finding a bipartisan path forward for passage of this year’s NDAA, I will not give up or walk away from the table until we get this bill signed into law. This isn’t about politics, it’s about our national security, and we need lawmakers who can tell the difference.

Congresswoman Kendra Horn represents Oklahoma’s 5th District, and sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Tags Artificial intelligence Eddie Bernice Johnson Frank Lucas Kendra Horn National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act National Defense Authorization Act NDAA

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